But that’s exactly what happened to an Ohio State University law school grad, who in the eyes of the Ohio Supreme Court doesn’t possess “the character and fitness qualification” to get a law license – primarily because he didn’t bother to repay his school loans.
The court ruling came down on January 11, 2011, and the shockwaves are still reverberating around law schools across the U.S. Now, if the Ohio court ruling is any indication, Buckeye State law students who don’t handle their student loan debt won’t be allowed to practice law in the state.
The law school graduate in question, Hassan Jonathan Griffin, attended the Ohio State University Mortiz College of Law and graduated in 2008. He later worked part-time for the Franklin County Public Defender’s Office, for $12-an-hour.
[Resource: 8 Ways to Ease Student Loan Burden]
A state review board rejected Griffin’s bar application in 2009, citing a state statute that says attorney applicants in the state possess “the requisite character, fitness, and moral qualifications for admission to the practice of law.”
The board recommended the state supreme court, which regulates admission to the state bar, that Griffin be rejected for his most recent application to be recognized as an attorney in Ohio. The state said he could reapply next month – presuming his financial house is in order.
The 40-year-old Griffin owed $170,000 in law school loans, and another $16,500 in credit card debt. Citing the massive amount of debt, the state Supreme Court ruled that Griffin didn’t “have a feasible plan to satisfy his legal obligations.”
Griffin’s lawyer now says he has a better grip on his finances, and will reapply for the Ohio state bar in February. But his tale is a cautionary one for law school graduates, many of whom owe tens of thousands of dollars in school loans. According to the American Bar Association, the average law school loan for private institutions is $91,506, and $59,324 for public law schools.
Students who take out those loan amounts can blow them off, but if they do, and they want to practice law in Ohio, they’re in for a gut-punching surprise.
Just ask Hassan Griffin.
Image by Martin Gommel, via Flickr